Heart of the Swarm: Kerrigan Is An Unsympathic Hero

Some will argue that Kerrigan was emotionally compromised. In response, I ask: You know that scene in horror movies when one of the characters suggests splitting up? Yeah, you don’t hear anyone bring up the emotionally compromised argument there — the audience immediately dislikes the character and hopes he dies. Characters who do not act with a modicum of intelligence do not evoke sympathy from an audience.

While not nearly as damning, Kerrigan’s unhelpful advice to her subordinates and her apparent flip-flopping on whether or not zerg lives matter serve as an icing of toothpaste on a rotten fruit cake. She expounds on the virtues of having “vision,” but never clearly explains what she means. She accuses the Protoss of the heinous act of having killed billions of zerg, but then expresses that she has no qualms sending millions of zerg to their deaths.

But now we’re touching upon morality. When dealing with antiheroes, writers will often include “pet the dog” moments that prove the character actually has a heart. For Kerrigan, I can only think of one: the time she chose to spare civilians at the expense of a great tactical advantage. Some of you may bring up the scene with General Warfield as a second example. You’d be wrong. Kerrigan choosing to spare Warfield’s wounded soldiers — who posed no threat to her — did not put her on the moral high ground. Killing them would have made her a villain. Not selecting the Dark Side option does not give her Light Side points.

Plus, she killed Warfield, a mortally wounded amputee who was just trying to protect his people. If you argue that this was an act of mercy, I’d urge you to take a look at that scene again. That was not mercy in her eyes — that was anger. The only sympathetic character in that scene was Warfield.

The great shame here is that Kerrigan could have been made into a sympathetic character. She was a victim of great suffering in her past. But that history does not come through in HotS. Wings of Liberty showed the cinematic in which Kerrigan was abandoned by Mengsk and captured by the zerg in such a powerfully touching scene. We needed moments like these in HotS to remind us why Mengsk is so deserving of death and why Kerrigan’s thirst for vengeance is so strong. Instead, the story relies entirely on a hammy tale of lost love to propel the plot along.

Rather than give us a conflicted character forced to cope with her newfound human weaknesses and experience an arc, Blizzard elected to offer us a cardboard cutout. Rather than a story that explored Kerrigan’s character, we got shots of Kerrigan’s posterior in spandex.

I feel cheated.

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4 Comments on Heart of the Swarm: Kerrigan Is An Unsympathic Hero

folklore

On April 5, 2013 at 5:12 pm

I won’t deny that blizzard could have made the story much better, and that kerrigan as a character could have been much better. I would argue that she didn’t give up her humanity, at least not entirely. Compare her to the queen of blades personality and the heart of the swarm kerrigan. The two are pretty different, with at least on some level. Unfortunately blizzard really dropped the ball, as this difference doesn’t come out very much until that point in the game.

I like the queen of blades version better myself.
Good article either way.

Robyn

On April 6, 2013 at 2:33 am

Did anyone else find themselves wondering if ALL Kerrigan’s hair had gone ‘zerg’? Cause that would need some serious nair…

Quinsec

On April 7, 2013 at 9:21 am

I think we can certainly question her inconsistencies – but does she need to be sympathetic or even a hero? Some of my favorite games placed me in the role of villain. Granted, Blizzard is trying to draw you into the story, and her character makes that problematic.

I think the greatest issue is that perhaps she plays too much into the irrational woman stereotype.

gildesh

On April 9, 2013 at 4:36 pm

But was she more sympathetic in the original Starcraft zerg campaign, when she destroyed Aiur? Or in Brood War, where she played everyone like a puppet and then she backstabbed them? Of course, that wasn’t Kerrigan, that was The Queen of Blades, but ‘it’ was a ‘protagonist’ too. What made her sympathetic then, and unsympathetic now?